CNN describes (and tacitly supports) the existence of “after death communications”

June 21, 2021 • 11:00 am

Of all the places that I would expect to report on the reality of people having encounters with dead loved ones, CNN is the last. After all, the article below (click on screenshot) is not an op-ed, but appears in the site’s “Health” section, and is written by John Blake, a CNN producer and writer.

The most objectionable part of this article, beyond it appearing at CNN, is that it raises no doubts about the reality of these ADCs (“after death communications”). It interviews no skeptics, offers no naturalistic explanations, and gives lots of anecdotes that, in toto, look like strong support for the reality of ADCs. CNN is pandering to those who believe in unsubstantiated woo.

Here are two anecdotes from among several given in the article:

When Ian and Michelle Horne got married, he wore a purple tie on their wedding day because it was her favorite color. As the years rolled by, they got matching tattoos and gave each other nicknames from the movie, “The Princess Bride.” He called her Princess Buttercup and she called him “Farm Boy Wesley.” They made plans to visit Ireland this year to celebrate her Irish roots.

[Michelle died young of Covid-19.]

. . . . . But not long after his wife’s death, the morning radio deejay in Wichita, Kansas, wondered if Michelle was still speaking to him. He was driving to his job in the predawn darkness when he spotted something odd. About two dozen streetlights flanking the highway had turned purple. They looked like a lavender string of pearls glowing in the night sky.

“Michelle knew that was my route to work that I take every morning and was the route she took on her final drive to the hospital,” says Horne, who hosts his morning show on 101.3 KFDI as “JJ Hayes.”
“I remember simply smiling and feeling overwhelmed with the idea that Michelle was close.”

Consider the story of Jamie Jackson, an office manager who lives near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and her beloved “Aunt Pat.” Jackson’s aunt died of a heart attack last summer after complications from Covid. Jackson said her aunt was like a mother to her — someone she spent summers with and accompanied to the hospital for routine medical visits.

But when her aunt was afflicted with Covid, Jackson couldn’t visit the hospital to reassure her.

“That was the hardest thing,” Jackson says. “You can’t say goodbye and you can’t be there as an advocate for your loved one, which is difficult because you have somebody who’s in the hospital, who’s scared and not used to being alone.”

Seven months later, though, Jackson says she heard from her aunt again.

It was December, and Jackson was putting up Christmas decorations in the house while Bing Crosby sang holiday carols. Christmas was one of her aunt’s favorite holidays, and she loved decorating. Jackson’s bin was filled with the same decorations that once belonged to her aunt.

Jackson says she left the bin in her hallway to get something and when she returned, she saw a translucent figure peering into it. It was the figure of a petite woman, with the same haircut, color of hair and white blouse and blue slacks that her aunt used to wear.

Jackson froze. Her hearted started pounding. She fled to her dining room and started crying. When she returned, the figure was gone. She says it was her aunt.

“It was overwhelming,” Jackson says. “It’s hard to put into words. I felt touched by that. It’s obvious that she’s around and she’s visiting me.”

It goes on, but the stories are all like this, and the article also recounts tales from other times, like people killed in war who come back to speak to their relatives and loved ones. Likewise with Japanese people revisited by relatives killed in tsunamis.

Further, they quote some “experts” whose words lend credibility not to the idea that people only thought they saw dead loved ones, but that they were real paranormal phenomena. Here are a few such quotes:

“These kind of reports are normal in my world,” says Scott Janssen, an author who has worked in the hospice field for years and studies these experiences. “It would make sense that in a pandemic or other event that leads to mass deaths that there will be a numerical increase in reports and experiences, given the shared grief and trauma.”

. . . Bill Guggenheim, co-author of “Hello from Heaven,” a book that explores ADCs, believes there is a spiritual purpose behind the visits.
“They want you to know they’re still alive, and that you’ll be reunited with them when it’s your turn to leave your lifetime on Earth,” he writes. “They want to assure you they’ll be there to meet you and greet you — and perhaps even to assist you — as you make your own transition.”

The only caveats in the article about any of these stories are lame:

Talk to people who have these experiences, and many will acknowledge that maybe their minds created the episode. Others insist the visitations were too real to deny.

Jackson, who lost her aunt, says it’s almost irrelevant if they’re real or not. Their impact is real, she says. They made her feel better”.

If I needed to see it and it made me feel better and that’s all it was, I’m okay with that,” she says. “I tell people if they don’t want to believe me, that’s fine. I don’t need to explain to other people.”

So the only caveat we have is that “many” people will acknowledge that maybe their minds created the episode. But others say they were real! We have no experts weighing in on the dubious nature of these experiences, no scientists reporting about how they can induce such experiences with drugs or brain stimulation, no Randi-ans who deny any credible evidence for communications from the dead. No, CNN, like those who had these ADCs, seemingly wants to believe they’re real.

And who wouldn’t want to? Books about people coming back from near-death experiences, reporting on the existence of a Heaven that harbors their loved ones, have been best sellers (see one here). Nobody wants to hear that there’s no credible evidence for an afterlife, and that, despite the ubiquity of psychics and seances, that there are no well documented cases of communications from beyond.

But for CNN to push this palaver as real, without enlisting one skeptic in its article—well, that’s reprehensible. Could it be that this is one effect of postmodernism-derived wokeness: that all “truths” are real, including personal ones?

But regardless of their origin, ADCs are, in the absence of evidence, simple wish-thinking and confirmation bias.  I sympathize with the people who have the experiences and think they are real, but yes, it does matter—a LOT—about whether “they’re real or not.” A world with ADCs is a very different world from a naturalistic one in which, when you die, that’s all, folks. Either there’s an afterlife in which you meet your loved ones, or there isn’t, and that matters. If for nothing else, it affects the credibility of many religions.

35 thoughts on “CNN describes (and tacitly supports) the existence of “after death communications”

  1. I saw this story on CNN over the weekend, and my first reaction was that it must be spiritualism, but then I thought, no it’s probably just clickbait, and people got letters or emails they sent before their loved ones died. The table rappers will be out in force. It’s not news; it’s CNN.

  2. The stiletto that I wish would gain strength against woo, and especially ‘voices,’ is this:

    The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
    ~ Julian James

    The voices are auditory hallucinations.

    1. Add: Jaynes makes a compelling case, not just against the voices being “real,” but of the entire supernatural realm being an illusion, including all of religion and theism. No “alternate means of knowing” other than reason.

  3. Once upon a time, news outlets had a responsibility to inform and educate, something they took seriously. Now they are trying to embrace all their viewers’ truths in a desperate attempt to increase ratings. Truth is now in the hands of the highest bidder, all negotiated in real time by their advertising algorithms.

      1. According to Wikipedia, “To this day, the BBC aims to follow the Reithian directive to “inform, educate and entertain”, though I suspect that a large proportion of UK residents would disagree that Auntie Beeb meets that target – both on the right and left, so hopefully the balance is more or less correct.

    1. What little I watched TV of that ilk previously, it has become less and less.

      However it must be admitted that I watched about 15 minutes of MSNBC this morning. And slightly related to the CNN nonsense in Jerry’s non-blog, they had a panel of 8 (or was it 10?) bloviating on the topic of how it could be that evangelicals could fall for the Qanon BS in such large numbers.

      There was not a single one of that crew who were willing to admit that they didn’t fall for Xian nonsense, maybe even admit to being agnostic. In particular not one who was willing to come out and simply say: “If you are willing to believe in the literal truth of the Bible, then you are dumb enough to believe anything, especially stupidity that shows you believe what you emotionally wish to be true, despite the utter lack of evidence.”

      Of course such a panelist would cease being a dumb-dumb panelist again on network gnus TV, since this would clearly put off the advertisers.

      1. There have always been levels of nonsense belief. There’s even a time-dependent aspect to it. People have less respect for Mormonism than some other religions simply because it was invented relatively recently. I guess it has had less time to be unsubstantiated nonsense.

        You’re right about the advertisers. There is virtually nothing to be gained by offending anyone or telling somebody that they believe nonsense.

    2. news outlets had a responsibility to inform and educate

      I suspect you’re partly remembering the terms of the charter of incorporation of the BBC (specifically, in clause 5, “The Mission of the BBC is to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain.”
      Then you’re generalising that to try to apply the same rules to other bodies, which never did, and probably never will, feel the same imperatives. Which other news organisations, for example, feel the need to produce news and current affairs programming for “small countries, far away”, in their native tongues?
      It’s a very nice set of ideals. I fully anticipate that at some point, the government will try to eviscerate it, and sell the good bits (the back catalogue, principally) to their cronies for a sou. The main uncertainty is whether they’ll do it after eviscerating the NHS, or before. And I don’t for one second expect any commercial organisation to accept those strictures. Pandering to the demands of interest groups and echo chambers is a much more effective way of selling advertising eyeball-seconds.

      1. I would be surprised if similar words were not present in US news network slogans back in the 60s before the news divisions had to sink or swim on their advertising revenues. That was a more innocent and informative time.

      2. CNN’s mission statement is: “to inform, engage and empower the world.”

        So I think it’s fair to take them to task for this. This article goes directly against/sells out their self-professed “inform” mission for market share.

  4. CNN has also been big on UFOs recently. I’m surprised the don’t play theremins and waterphones during their reports.

  5. Every time I make the nut hand on the river in a game of Texas hold ’em, I figure it’s my beloved aunt who taught me to play poker looking down upon me fondly — but I don’t goddam believe</b it.

    Anybody who does believe such stuff is welcome to come buy all the chips they can afford at my table.

    It’s an unceasing source of amazement, the crap the credulous and feebleminded will swallow.

  6. Sad to hear about this. My convos with well meaning people who ask if I feel a presence of my deceased husband shut down quickly when I inform them I am a strict materialist and no, I don’t. Grief is difficult enough without ghosts, spirits or afterlife to account for.

    Shame on CNN for putting this out there.

  7. I had a person in my choir look at me in shock and disbelief when I told her I don’t believe in an “afterlife”. With total seriousness, she said: “That’s too bad” and I knew that in her head she was picturing me in the eternal hell-fires. I had to feel sorry for her in her pain on watching me burn. Haha.

    1. If I heard “That’s too bad” in that context, I would think that the person was lamenting that you aren’t a member of their club. People who believe in that stuff, and religion in general, do so for social reasons. They like the idea that they are in a homogenous belief group. It’s safe and a version of tribalism. Their comment is a lightweight notification that they are part of the club and you’re not.

  8. Embarrassing. But I’m sure we can find a high percentage of people who believe that aliens visit our planet. Or that some people are able to predict the future. Or that Trump won the election. Life after death and contact with the dead is just one of many indicators that societal progress in critical thinking is sort of treading water.

  9. I like Neil deGrasse Tyson’s response when he hears such stories: Next time you have such a visit, ask people some substantive questions, like “Where are you?” “Do you have clothes?” “Where did the clothes come from?” “Are you hot, are you cold, etc.?” “Are you the age you were when you died?” rather than just getting a vague sense that they’re there and banal homilies. If there were an afterlife, there should be some kind of answer to such questions, and it should be consistent.

    I do have some respect for the woman who admits that what happened might just have been in her head to make her feel better, and that she frankly doesn’t care one way or the other. But, yeah, CNN could do better…though I’m not surprised that they don’t.

    1. Ha ha, that’s great – ghosts have ghost clothes too. Y’know, I’d never thought about that before.

  10. There is a whole industry catering for, nay, exploiting this yearning for contact with lost beloved ones. It is deeply unconscionable of CNN to be complicit in this racket.

  11. And THAT is (in part) why I don’t watch CNN, or even TV anymore. My endurance of bs is much reduced these past few years. I’m not buying what they’re selling.
    A charter that includes “entertainment” should mean entertainment should be labeled as such (like The Muppet Show) rather than sold as fact. That includes the now useless BBC.

    – Just an aside: remember in, say, 1991, Iraq, when CNN was a reliable purveyor of news and facts?
    Their long decline mirrors that (now) joke of a celebrity rag Time Magazine’s.
    F. ’em.

  12. True story: for the first two years after my dad died, my mom got a call on his birthday from his old cell phone number. When she picked up, the line would be blank. So she’d hang up.

    She greatly enjoyed it and still loves to laugh about how “he’s calling her”. It was startling, but in a good way in that it helped preserve his memory. And yes, she believes he’s in heaven.

    But neither she nor anyone else in the family ever thought it was actually him calling from beyond the grave. Best we can guess, some telemarketer got hold of his personal information (cell number and DOB), and called her using his number as a mask because that gives them a high chance she’ll pick up rather than ignore it. We still aren’t sure why the line is blank, but both times she hung up pretty quickly. So we’ve all agreed that if it happens again, she should stay on the line longer to see if it eventually does transfer to some telemarketing pitch. No ADCism, but certainly curiosity.

    1. That is a known play. The robo call is only for one thing: to determine if someone picks up and says “hello.” That makes the phone number belong to a high value category when a company is “selling leads.”

      So, their computer simply calls every finite number in a given area code, and keeps a record of the result … dead, disconnected, VM, or live person.

  13. I guess a lot of us would like there to be some sort of interesting afterlife. Haunting people sounds sort of fun, and the invisibility would let you watch famous people disrobe.

    But on a slightly more serious note- I put myself in to the most likely situation to experience ghostly visitations that I could devise for myself:
    The cave is called the “cave of skulls” in the local dialect. There are neolithic drawings on the walls, and some of their tools can still be found there.
    When the Spanish took over, dissidents not amendable to Spanish language, religion, and other practices were taken to the cave and thrown down the oubliette.
    The oubliette is a hole well inside the cave, and is a lava tube about 30 feet across, which goes straight down over 100 feet.
    When WW2 came, the cave was used by the Japanese as a field hospital and civilian shelter. When the Americans advanced to the cave entrance, they used flamethrowers and artillery point blank aimed towards the ceiling of the largest chamber, which mostly collapsed onto the inhabitants.
    The cave entrance is surrounded by a particular type of tree that the locals believe attract headless ghosts. ( The headless part goes back to when they kept the skulls of their ancestors at the family shrine. So the reanimated dead would naturally be headless.)
    Also, the cave is way out in the boonies, far from any inhabitants.
    So there I was. I got to the cave about midnight, worked my way down to the oubliette, fixed ropes, and went to the bottom. Now it is 0200. The nearest live person is miles away. It is very hot down there, unlike caves that are not associated with live volcanoes. Down there, I am surrounded with the evidence of a lot of suffering and death. I see an adze made from a large clam right away. Also, lots of hospital debris, scraps of wood, lots of broken bottles and pottery, which the civilians probably brought from their homes when the battle began. There was one badly twisted rifle there, a bunch of military and civilian gas masks, and of course a great many human bones.
    My experiment was that I would go down there, find a comfortable place to sit, turn my lights off, and just meditate for a couple of hours, open to whatever could be there with me.

    and…..Nothing. no ghostly voices, levitating objects, or unexplained chill in the air. no strange glow in the darkness. Just nothing. So I started the very strenuous process of climbing out using the ropes I fixed to get me in and out.

    But if I cannot see ectoplasm or a Class-5 full-roaming vapor down there, I could go camping on the site of Treblika and have the same result.

    It could just be me, but I suspect that there just is not anything there

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